Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Ian Cole had played 103 career playoff games before competing in Game 1 of their series against the New York Rangers on Wednesday night, scoring one postseason goal.
Now he has two. Cole, 33, scored at 3:12 of overtime to give the Hurricanes a 2-1 come-from-behind overtime win over the Rangers, taking a 1-0 series lead in Raleigh. In the process, he became an unlikely postseason hero.
“That’s what’s great about this game,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “You just don’t know who’s going to be the guy. And now he’s got that moment forever.”
In overtime, Hurricanes defenseman Brendan Smith snapped a shot from near the blue line that was blocked by Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba. The puck bounced to Cole, who was deep in the zone.
“We had some extended zone time there. I was looking to pass to someone, but no one was really anywhere dangerous. So I decided to throw it on the net and see what happens,” Cole said.
His shot deflected off of defenseman Ryan Lindgren and past goalie Igor Shesterkin for the game-winner.
“Hockey is a game of weird bounces. It’s not the prettiest, but we’ll take it,” Cole said.
Cole was mobbed by his teammates as the PNC Area crowd was in a frenzy. It wasn’t a position Cole has been in much before in his 12-year NHL career – he only has four career game-winning goals, all in the regular season. Cole admitted it was “a little claustrophobic” being in the middle of the chaos.
“Visor got a little fogged up. Hair got in my face. Couldn’t see anything,” he said.
For the Hurricanes, it was a stunning rally after the Rangers controlled most of the game. Filip Chytil’s first-period goal held up until Sebastian Aho tied the game with 2:23 left in regulation. Goalie Antti Raanta made 27 saves in the game, keeping the score close.
“He kept us in that game for two full periods. Gave us a chance to get back. That’s all you can ask from a goalie,” Cole said.
Cole gave the Hurricanes all they could ask for and more.
His only other postseason goal was scored on June 6, 2016, with the Pittsburgh Penguins – the first goal they scored in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Cole said the Hurricanes are playing for their shot at the Cup.
“It’s not necessarily about this game but building towards that journey,” he said. “We’re not here to win one game in the second round and be like ‘mission accomplished.’ We’re here to win the Stanley Cup. “